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Copywriting QA – four helpful tips

January 24, 2011
Hughes H4 Hercules

Foie Gras copywriting - ramming too much down the customer's throat will result in nothing but a damp squib. In this case, the Hughes "Spruce Goose"

Great copy makes great sales. Well, in theory at least! But what often happens is that there is a communication breakdown between first reading and the order form. This is because inexperienced writers fail to think like the customer and get lost along the way. This is bad news for effective marketing communications!

Copywriting QA therefore is important. Nay, it is crucial to success. The oldest copywriting professionals give the best advice and to my mind the best advice is to start with the order form. Only by understanding what the customer is expected to do at the end can the copywriter persuade the customer to do it in the first place.

And remember, the order form gives all the terms and conditions, offer details and offer deadlines – by knowing those first you don’t forget the sizzle which should define your writing.

The reader journey is everything in marketing. Whether it’s an email blast leading to an online form, a Facebook campaign leading to a survey, a Twitter post leading to a competition or a letter trying to sell a newsletter, the reader journey must be seamless. The drive to the order/response.

Secondly, of course, is knowing who you’re writing to. The biggest problem faced by copywriters is that budgets often don’t extend to segmented marketing messages. This is problematic but not altogether disastrous.

Although it is always better to have an envisaged recipient in your head based on a segment, sometimes you need to have a generic recipient. If anything, it is better to envisage someone rather than no-one. A failure to think of a recipient at all creates the worst kind of copywriting: product-led copy. A foie-gras approach: ramming the unwanted down the unknown goose’s throat.

Thirdly, it helps if you know what you’re selling. No, really! It’s surprising how many brochures/catalogues/websites etc you see where, if you remove the words and put them on a blank piece of paper, it would not be obvious what is being sold. What is being sold? What does it do? How can you prove it? Why should they believe you?

If you don’t know what your product does and you don’t know who you’re selling to, then how on earth will the recipient decide to buy what you’re offering?

There’s one last thing that really makes a lot of difference but which, surprisingly, can easily be overlooked. The contact details.

One of the best performing campaigns I’ve ever done was where the mailing house failed to include the sales letter, brochure or reply-paid envelope in the pack, just enclosing a sample copy of the newsletter we were promoting! Luckily on the newsletter was the address of the publishing company I worked for! The ROI on this campaign was amazing – as were the red faces all around…

So, in summary:

  1. Start with the order form – this will help define the customer journey
  2. Envisage your reader – it helps to put the writer in the mind of the consumer
  3. Know what you’re selling – if you don’t know, your customers certainly won’t
  4. Make sure they can contact you – have details on every pack element

With copywriting, the reader – not the writer – is everything. If the journey is clear, the product defined, the benefits evident and the pathway to purchase obvious then the chances of commercial success will be much greater.

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